How to Make An ADA Compliant Website

You want your website to be accessible to everyone. And the best way to do that is to ensure that your site is an ADA compliant website. We take a look at how to ensure that your site meets the ADA requirements.

20% of the U.S. population has some form of disability. So it is no surprise that federal laws now require ADA compliant websites for all government services.

According to Sections 504 and 508, government services must provide accessible electronic information for all individuals. Regardless of ability.

But what is ADA compliance? And how do you ensure that your website adheres to these guidelines?

Keep reading for a rundown of the ADA, accessibility best practices, and tips for making your website ADA compliant.

What is the ADA?
ADA stands for the Americans with Disabilities Act. This act, signed into law in 1990, protects United States citizens with a disability from discrimination.

The ADA protects disabled persons from outright discrimination. The Rehabilitation Act guarantees them the same educational and employment opportunities as able-bodied Americans.

This guarantee is what makes ADA compliance so important for websites. Disabled persons must be able to use your website to the same extent that conventionally abled students and parents are.

If they cannot do so, then your website could be reported as ADA non-compliant.

What is ADA Compliance for Websites?
ADA compliance means that your website and its content can be accessed by the disabled.

As of January 2017, all state and local government websites must be accessible, using WCAG standards.  This includes schools, universities, and other federally funded agencies.

There are four main categories of disabilities that your website must accommodate:

Those who are hearing disabled have some or total hearing impairment. This means they have difficulty hearing or cannot hear at all.
Video and audio clips may pose issues for website ADA compliance.

Visual disability includes color blindness, partial vision, and total blindness.
Graphics that rely heavily on color can be unreadable for those who are color blind. Your website’s images and text may be inaccessible to those with little or no vision.

Cognitive disabilities represent many different learning disorders and traumatic brain injuries. Those who are cognitively disabled may have poor memory, trouble focusing, difficulty reading, and other characteristics that make written communication difficult to understand.

Motor disabilities encompass any type of physically limiting disability. Those who are physically disabled may be unable to use a mouse or keyboard the way conventionally abled users are.

How Do Disabled Individuals Access the Web?
One helpful guide for creating an ADA-compliant website is understanding how disabled visitors access the Internet.

Here are some of the most common accessibility tools being used:

Screen readers

Screen readers are used by the visually disabled to read on-screen text aloud. Since they may be unable to see the text on a website, visitors are able to listen to a computer narration instead.

Braille keyboards
Braille keyboards allow the visually disabled to type on a computer. These devices are often very different in construction from traditional QWERTY keyboards, but some similar ones exist as well.

Voice controls
While voice control is becoming commonplace with the introduction of Siri, Alexa, and Hey, Google!, this technology has been used by the disabled for years. Physically disabled or vision-impaired users are able to click and type by speaking voice commands, rather than needing to use a mouse and keyboard.

Hands-free mouse
A hands-free mouse is an innovative way for the physically disabled to navigate the Internet.

The most common form of this device uses a camera to track where the user is looking. This eye-tracking technology allows the user to scroll and click like they would with a traditional mouse.

How to Make An ADA Compliant Website
Here are some of the most common ways to make sure a website is ADA compliant:

1. Provide text alternatives
Images, video, and other multi-media content should be labeled with alternative text that describes the information contained within.

Alternative text is a rich but concise description of the content that can be accessed by screen readers and other accessibility tools for the visually impaired.

2. Use contrasting design
Visitors with partially impaired vision or color blindness will be unable to see some designs or color choices. Make sure to use high contrasting colors for backgrounds, text, and links with the proper ratios.

3. Structure your HTML code
Use a combination of HTML and CSS to properly label all coded elements. Using the correct heading labels in your content helps screen readers and other tools decipher your website.

A capable web designer will be able to create an attractive website that is also completely accessible to the disabled.

4. Create captions for video content
Video captions should not just be a written transcript of the spoken words.

Proper video accessibility includes closed captioning, descriptions of the video’s visual elements, and details about tone, facial expressions, and other subtle communication cues.

5. Avoid flashing content
Flashing or flickering content can trigger seizures in some website viewers.

Even for those who are not epileptic, this kind of visual stimulation can be stressful or disorienting. It is best to avoid these types of elements entirely.

6. Simplify navigation
Complex navigation can be confusing for your visitors and for accessibility devices. Voice controls and hands-free mice have a hard time navigating some interactive menus.

For ADA compliance, it is best to opt for static menus and to offer several alternative menus across your website. Search bars are also a great option for ease of navigation.

With a wide range of disabilities and accessibility tools to account for, ADA compliance may seem overwhelming.

The best thing you can do is adhere to these guidelines from the very beginning. If you enforce strict ADA-compliance policies in your web development and design, then you can ensure that all new and existing content is developed to these standards.

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